Thursday, February 5, 2015

War Story

NBC News anchor Brian Williams apologizes for remembering something that didn’t happen to him.

I yield the floor to those who were there and who know all too well how combat — or even just the proximity of it — can alter the perceptions.

I find this to be a pretty big nothing-burger. He wasn’t trying to personally profit from the situation, he was just trying to do something nice for the CSM. He even initially accurately reported what happened, and only now seems to have screwed up the narrative. And he immediately apologized when he realized he was wrong, on facebook in the thread where he was confronted, and again on tv…

[…]

And no, liberals, this is not the same as Hillary’s sniper fire bullshit, in which she completely made up stuff to embellish herself. Here, Williams just misspoke (misremembered/whatever blows your trumpet) in a tribute to an American soldier.

I don’t watch his network news program enough to care about Brian Williams, but, like John Cole, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that this is end of it, although I have my doubts.  This is just the sort of shiny-object thing that fills the vast void of what passes for public discourse today.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Granma, Indiana

Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) is not happy with the way the press covers his administration.  So he’s decided to start his own state-run media.

Gov. Mike Pence is starting a state-run taxpayer-funded news outlet that will make pre-written news stories available to Indiana media, as well as sometimes break news about his administration, according to documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star.

Pence is planning in late February to launch “Just IN,” a website and news outlet that will feature stories and news releases written by state press secretaries and is being overseen by a former Indianapolis Star reporter, Bill McCleery.

The difference between “Just IN” and Granma, the news outlet in Havana, Cuba, is that the latter has no problem labeling itself as the official voice of the political party in charge.  Why so shy, Mike?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday Reading

The Right to Be Offended — Karl Sharro in The Atlantic on the retreat of free speech.

As a satirist who focuses on the Middle East, I’ve bumped up against my share of boundaries. Two years ago, for example, I struggled with how to satirize the tendency of some Western observers to distort conflicts in the Middle East by attributing those conflicts to “ancient rivalries” rather than, say, contemporary political struggles. Ultimately, I decided that the best approach would be to push that logic to its absurd conclusion by writing a “tribal” guide to the region, which relied on familiar stereotypes about Sunnis, Shiites, Jews, and others. I hoped readers would understand that these caricatures were meant not to be crude and bigoted, but rather to show how disconnected the ancient-rivalries thesis is from reality. And readers did understand—for the most part. This ability to test the boundaries of good taste, and even to be offensive, is essential to effective satire. But it’s now under threat.

Following the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris and the cold-blooded murder of 12 people, a familiar refrain rang out in some quarters. The assault on the satirical magazine, so the argument went, represented a collision of cultures: a Western one that champions freedom of speech and an Islamic one that does not tolerate offenses to its religious symbols. But one of the real storylines here isn’t some clash of civilizations; it’s the steady erosion of freedom of expression and the rise of the right to be offended—in the West as well as other parts of the world.

The culture-clash interpretation of the horror in Paris transcends political divides in the West. On the right, some claim that Muslims’ beliefs are incompatible with modernity and Western values. On the left, some construe the attack as a retaliation for severe offenses, essentially suggesting that Muslims are incapable of responding rationally to such offenses and that it is therefore best not to provoke them. The latter explanation is dressed up in the language of social justice and marginalization, but is, at its core, a patronizing view of ordinary Muslims and their capacity to advocate for their rights without resorting to nihilistic violence. This outlook also promotes the idea that Muslims and other people of Middle Eastern origin are defined primarily by their religion, which in turn devalues and demeans the attempts of Arab and Middle Eastern secularists to define themselves through varying interpretations of religion or even by challenging religion and its role in public life. By seeking to present religion as a form of cultural identity that should be protected from offense and critique, Western liberals are consequently undermining the very struggles against the authority of inherited institutions through which much of the Western world’s social and political progress was achieved.

Given that I often deal with the issue of jihadism in my satire, the Charlie Hebdo attack highlighted the dangers that my colleagues and I face when we mock extremists. Still, there is a risk in framing what we do as satirists and cartoonists as a heroic battle against extremism. For one thing, this implies that only ‘worthy’ works of satire should be defended on the grounds of free speech. For freedom of speech and expression to mean something, they must be defended on their own terms, not because of their political usefulness in the fight against extremism.

This is a critical distinction given the current climate in the West, where a culture of taking offense has found fertile ground and is increasingly restricting what artists and writers are able to do and say. The British writer Kenan Malik traces the origins of this trend to 1989, when the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomenei issued his infamous fatwa against Salman Rushdie for allegedly blaspheming Islam in The Satanic Verses. In From Fatwa to Jihad, Malik argues convincingly that the response to the fatwa and similar threats has been counterproductive, coming to pose a grave threat to free speech. “Internalizing the fatwa has not just created a new culture of self-censorship, it has also helped generate the same problems to which self-censorship was supposedly a response,” he writes. “The fear of giving offence has simply made it easier to take offence.”

[…]

The murders in Paris have certainly brought the struggle for free speech into stark relief. But it’s premature to expect the episode to reverse the trend toward more restrictions on expression in the West. This week, for instance, the gush of support for freedom of expression was quickly countered by backlash against an op-ed written by Anjem Choudary, in which the radical British Islamist justified the Charlie Hebdo attack by claiming that Muslims don’t believe in free speech and that France shouldn’t have allowed the cartoons to be published. Many people argued that he shouldn’t have been given a platform in the press, particularly at a moment like this (for a sense of the intensity of the response, just look at Twitter).

But restricting free speech further, even in the case of so-called hate speech, would be precisely the wrong response to the carnage in Paris. Instead, we should reassert the rights of satirical magazines and radical preachers alike to express their views, and the freedom of anyone and everyone to challenge them. That’s the best lesson to learn from this tragedy.

What’s Funny — Colin Stokes in The New Yorker.

Over the past few days, it has become apparent that many people have lost their ability to laugh. Some of us could laugh at one point but, owing to recent events, have become unable to do so. Others of us seem never to have been able to laugh in the first place. This is a guide both for those who only now find themselves incapable of laughter and for those who have had difficulty laughing their entire lives.

Part I. A joke is a thing that is meant to make life tolerable.

Suffering is all around us, just like furniture when you are at an IKEA store. Sometimes it comes from the natural world, like the wood used to make the furniture that is currently surrounding you at the IKEA store. Sometimes it comes from other people, like the people who pick things up and then leave them in totally random places around the IKEA store. Sometimes it’s just there, and we don’t know where it came from, like that ownerless dog that follows you around the IKEA parking lot, and then wants to come home with you, but the second you let it into your car, it poops everywhere.

When people make a joke, what they are doing is combining words and/or images in ways that are intended to surprise you a little. They may even surprise you a lot. These surprises make us laugh because we weren’t expecting them, and we involuntarily react by laughing when we are released from a state of not knowing what is about to come. Laughing lets us forget about the suffering that is an unavoidable part of life, at least temporarily. It frees us to lie down in a bed that we don’t own at IKEA, and to try to forget about the small dog that changed the way our car smells forever.

Part II. Sometimes jokes make people upset.

Necessarily, in the course of trying to surprise people, jokes can surprise some people a little too much. Once I told a joke to James Bond when he was suspended above a tank of sharks, trapped in a device that would drop him into the tank if he laughed. He didn’t laugh, though, because he’s a professional spy. Also, it was a current-events joke, and he’s a fictional character from the nineteen-fifties, so he didn’t get it, even though it was really funny, I swear. People often get angry about a joke that they think went too far, and they lash out at the person who told it to them. After he escaped from the shark-tank-laughing device, James Bond was pretty upset with me.

But those who write jokes come to expect negative reactions from a certain number of people. James Bond doesn’t come to any of my standup shows anymore, and certainly not when he’s stuck in the shark-tank-laughing device, which is surprisingly often.

Part III. Jokes can tell truths about things.

Some jokes are more than just surprising per se, because they articulate a truth about something in real life. My friends used to joke that I didn’t know what the term “per se” meant, because I always used it when I was talking about pears that could talk. We laugh at these types of jokes and then, when we’re done laughing, we realize that some of the things we heard in the jokes relate to real life. In this case, I realized that I was, in fact, using “per se” incorrectly.

Part IV. Sometimes getting upset at jokes helps you learn new things.

There are some people who have distorted beliefs about reality. I once fiercely believed that priests and rabbis rarely frequented bars together. When people hear jokes that challenge what they think they know, they can get angry. Did you hear the one about the priest and the rabbi in the bar? It took me a long time to wrap my mind around that one. But now I am surprised by almost no one entering a bar.

Part V. Jokes can be bad.

Some jokes are just completely horrible. Did you hear the one about the blind ship captain? He couldn’t sea anything. That’s a horrendous joke. But I still should have the right to tell it. Just like you have the right to say that it’s not funny, and then temporarily blind me and make me the captain of a ship to show me how unfunny it is. Actually, you don’t have the right to do that—that would be false imprisonment and the infliction of grievous bodily harm. What you should really do is say that it’s not funny, perhaps call it insensitive to blind ship captains, and then move on.

Doonesbury — Hot tips.

Monday, December 8, 2014

TNR Goes Down

Years ago — long before the internet — my mom gave me a subscription to The New Republic, and I dutifully read it.  She had told me that it was not exactly a liberal publication but it had good writing and a long history of in-depth journalism going back to 1914.

But when it came time to renew I didn’t bother.  I think I was in the midst of moving from Colorado to Michigan or something and I already had subscriptions to enough magazines — Newsweek, The Nation, The New Yorker, and Caribbean Travel & Life cluttered the coffee table — and if there was something really important in TNR, Mom would clip it out and send it.

Now the magazine, like most print publications, is going through paroxysms of change as the internet and on-line writing overwhelm the ink barrels.  A few years ago TNR was bought up by Chris Hughes who once won the lottery and roomed with Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard and therefore had the money to buy it.  Last week it went through a major seismic change at the top — mass resignations by editors and top managers– and over the weekend the magazine announced that it was going on hiatus until February.  My money is on it not coming back at all.

There’s no doubt that the magazine had an impact on a lot of readers and writers.  Respected journalists from both the left and the right worked there; people like Michael Kinsley to Andrew Sullivan were editors, and the history of the publication goes back to the heyday of investigative journalism in the early 1900’s.  But as Josh Marshall notes, it has had its time.

I do not think there can be any doubt that what TNR was in decades past was deeply undermined by the publishing revolution of the last 20 years. This didn’t happen in the print versus digital sense we normally think of, not like what happened with newspapers, which is very different.

The key is that 30 years ago, if you wanted to read meaty, smart and incisive writing about politics, policy and the political culture of the United States – written for people who were really into those things – there just were not many places to find it. There were very, very few places in fact.

There were no blogs. There were none of the numerous digital publications which all to some degree take a stab at producing that kind of writing. There was The Nation further to the left, National Review on the right. And none of this is to diminish other even smaller magazines playing a similar role. But there was just nothing comparable to the profusion of material (content, as we now say) we have today.

I don’t like to sound callous and I’m sorry that the people who worked at TNR who had no role in management or editorial decisions are out of a job right before the holidays, but that’s what happens in the business of journalism: magazines come and go, and in the era of on-line journalism, it is especially tough.  Besides, as I noted elsewhere, if I want to read long articles with obscure cultural references, I’ll click on Andrew Sullivan.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Washington Post Turns Corporate

When Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post last year, some wondered how the paper would turn a profit.  After all, newspapers in general have been struggling since the digital age took over news delivery.  The solution for him is apparently to bring in someone with strong ties to both the corporate world and business-friendly administrations.

From Jim Newell at Salon:

Since it’s been in private control, and no longer subject to public shareholder pressure, the paper has invested in hiring dozens and dozens of new staffers with all sorts of cutting-edge “online experience,” writers who understand that the journalism of the future will involve getting lots of people to click on lots of stuff. No word yet on when/how this all becomes profitable. But that’s for the suits to worry about.

And that suit, apparently, will no longer be Katharine Weymouth, who’s leaving her role as publisher of the Washington Post. The exit by Weymouth, granddaughter of legendary Post publisher Katharine Graham, finally puts to rest longtime control of the paper by the Graham family. Into whose carefully chosen hands, now, shall control of the Post go? Which innovative digital prophet will lead the new Growth Era of the Washington Post?

Oh, just some old Reagan hand.

Well, we shouldn’t say “some” old Reagan hand. Fred Ryan, who’s just been named the Post’s new publisher, is among the more Reagan-y people to ever walk the earth — somewhat less Reagan-y than Ronald Reagan himself, but probably more Reagan-y than Nancy Reagan or other members of the Reagan family.

[…]

One might say Ryan is “pro-Reagan,” in other words. A lot of people, for whatever reason, are. But we’re talking about the world’s  No. 1 Reagan superfan, here. And now the Washington Post’s editorial board answers to him. This is news. (In his previous non-Reagan work, Ryan served as CEO of Politico. He helped co-found the organization back in the “old days” of 2007, when it was known as THE POLITICO and survived on Drudge links.)

Ryan is promising “editorial independence” and blah blah blah, like all right-wing publishers do when they take over a media property. And that may or may not turn out to be a lie. Assuming he were to press his own views on the editorial board, though, just how much difference would that make? Very little on the foreign policy side. The post’s editorial board is already run by editor Fred Hiatt and his deputy, Jackson Diehl, who run a comically hawkish all-war-all-the-time shop. On domestic policy, the Post is vaguely center-left — generally supportive of government programs’ ability to effect change, but also priggishly concerned about bad manners.

Reagan stuff aside, what a lame, classically Washington choice this is from Jeff Bezos: some Reaganite lawyer. Just when it looked like the Post was finally pulling its head out of its ass, it’s pulled right back in.

He and Rupert Murdoch will have a lot to talk about.

I’ve basically given up reading the Washington Post on-line since they have joined the paywall brigade and haven’t figured out how to stay in business without figuring out that not all their readers are from the District and don’t want their e-mail boxes in Miami flooded with pleas for home delivery deals.  If Jeff Bezos can become a multi-billionaire by running a business without making a profit, he can do the same with a newspaper, and getting a former Reagan toady to run it seems right up his alley.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Copy That

Fareed Zakaria stands accused of plagiarism again.

The pair of anonymous Twitter users who last month exposed a BuzzFeed editor’s plagiarism came out with new accusations Tuesday against journalist Fareed Zakaria.

On their blog Our Bad Media, the Twitter duo who use the handles @blippoblappo and @crushingbort assembled twelve passages of what they said appeared to be plagiarism by the Peabody-award winning journalist.

The accusations reopen an incident from 2012 in which Zakaria apologized for plagiarizing New Yorker’s Jill Lepore. The incident got him suspended from his job as editor-at-large at Time magazine as well as suspended from his hosting gig at CNN. He also volunteered to temporarily halt his column for the Washington Post for one month.

Plagiarists are like people who cheat on their spouses; they never think they’ll get caught, and when they are, it’s “Honey, I’m sorry and it’ll never happen again.  Besides, it didn’t mean anything.  Gimme one more chance.”  Feh.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Paper Dumps Will

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, one of the biggest newspapers in the country, is dropping George Will’s syndicated column and apologizing for his column in which he called sexual assault a “coveted status.”

The change has been under consideration for several months, but a column published June 5, in which Mr. Will suggested that sexual assault victims on college campuses enjoy a privileged status, made the decision easier. The column was offensive and inaccurate; we apologize for publishing it.

Heh.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Stop Digging

Sarah Ellison of Vanity Fair interviewed Arthur Sulzberger on the Jill Abramson firing at the New York Times.  He comes across as someone out of his depth and easily rolled by people he should be managing, and the more he tells of the story about what happened, the worse he comes off.

Ironic that a man in the newspaper business gives a really bad interview.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Not Too Shy

The big news of the Pulitzers was the citation to the Washington Post and the Guardian USA website for breaking the N.S.A. story.

A lot of people on both sides of the story were concentrating on the players: Edward Snowden and the reporters who broke the story.  But it did reveal something a lot of people subconsciously took for granted: that there’s a lot of things that our government does that we don’t know — or don’t want to know about.  Seeing them in print made a lot of people, including members of the Obama administration, rather uncomfortable.  That’s what journalism is supposed to do.

So it’s a tad ironic to hear Sharyl Attkisson, a former correspondent for CBS News, complain about the press for being “very shy” about challenging the Obama administration.  I think the Pulitzer committee would beg to disagree.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday Reading

More Money, Less Voting — Ari Berman in The Nation on the Supreme Court’s ideology.

In the past four years, under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court has made it far easier to buy an election and far harder to vote in one.

First came the Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which brought us the Super PAC era.

Then came the Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted the centerpiece of the Voting Rights Act.

Now we have McCutcheon v. FEC, where the Court, in yet another controversial 5-4 opinion written by Roberts, struck down the limits on how much an individual can contribute to candidates, parties and political action committees. So instead of an individual donor being allowed to give $117,000 to campaigns, parties and PACs in an election cycle (the aggregate limit in 2012), they can now give up to $3.5 million, Andy Kroll of Mother Jones reports.

The Court’s conservative majority believes that the First Amendment gives wealthy donors and powerful corporations the carte blanche right to buy an election but that the Fifteenth Amendment does not give Americans the right to vote free of racial discrimination.

These are not unrelated issues—the same people, like the Koch brothers, who favor unlimited secret money in US elections are the ones funding the effort to make it harder for people to vote. The net effect is an attempt to concentrate the power of the top 1 percent in the political process and to drown out the voices and votes of everyone else.

Consider these stats from Demos on the impact of Citizens United in the 2012 election:

·  The top thirty-two Super PAC donors, giving an average of $9.9 million each, matched the $313.0 million that President Obama and Mitt Romney raised from all of their small donors combined—that’s at least 3.7 million people giving less than $200 each.

·  Nearly 60 percent of Super PAC funding came from just 159 donors contributing at least $1 million. More than 93 percent of the money Super PACs raised came in contributions of at least $10,000—from just 3,318 donors, or the equivalent of 0.0011 percent of the US population.

·  It would take 322,000 average-earning American families giving an equivalent share of their net worth to match the Adelsons’ $91.8 million in Super PAC contributions.

That trend is only going to get worse in the wake of the McCutcheon decision.

Now consider what’s happened since Shelby County: eight states previously covered under Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act have passed or implemented new voting restrictions (Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina). That has had a ripple effect elsewhere. According to the New York Times, “nine states [under GOP control] have passed measures making it harder to vote since the beginning of 2013.”

A country that expands the rights of the powerful to dominate the political process but does not protect fundament rights for all citizens doesn’t sound much like a functioning democracy to me.

Why Local TV News Sucks — Josh Harkinson at Mother Jones explains.

Everybody knows that most local TV newscasts kind of suck. On television, if it bleeds it leads, and if it’s cheesy and trite it wins the night. Local news is a reliable source for late-night comedians—and The Simpsons has been lampooning it forever. Yet despite all of the genre’s shortcomings, local TV news still manages to reach 9 in 10 American adults, 46 percent of whom watch it “often.” It may come as a surprise to you internet junkies, but broadcast television still serves as Americans’ main source of news and information. Which is why it matters that hundreds of local TV news stations have been swept up in a massive new wave of media consolidation: It means that you, the viewer, are being fed an even more repetitive diet of dreck.

In terms of dollar value, more than 75 percent of the nearly 300 full-power local TV stations purchased last year were acquired by just three media giants. The largest, Sinclair Broadcasting, will reach almost 40 percent of the population if its latest purchases are approved by federal regulators. Sinclair’s CEO has said he wants to keep snapping up stations until the company’s market saturation hits 90 percent. (And that’s not a typo.)

Now here’s where things really get sketchy: Media conglomerates such as Sinclair have bought up multiple news stations in the same regions—in nearly half of America’s 210 television markets, one company owns or manages at least two local stations, and a lot of these stations now run very similar or even completely identical newscasts, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. One in four local stations relies entirely on shared content.

On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission finally took steps to curb the practice. The commission’s rules have long prohibited companies from owning more than one of the four top-rated stations in a given market. But there was no rule preventing a single company from managing more than one station per market. Companies exploited this loophole by controlling stations through “joint sales agreements”—essentially shell companies formed just to hold the broadcast license. “Removal of the loophole helps ensure competition, localism, and diversity in local broadcast markets by preventing a practice that previously resulted in consolidation in excess of what is permitted under the Commission’s rules,” the FCC said in a press release.

Ad Some Love — Andrew Solomon at The New Yorker on how advertising is fighting the culture war.

For a long time, prejudice made a certain business sense. You could argue that it was immoral or wrong; others insisted that it was moral and godly. But there was little dispute about the business piece of it. Bill Clinton liked gay people, but he signed the Defense of Marriage Act nonetheless. Karl Rove knew it was smart to put all those anti-gay-marriage initiatives on the ballot. Coors beer could advertise in gay magazines while funding anti-gay interests and keeping any hint of the “non-traditional” out of the ads it ran for general audiences. The regressive side in the so-called culture wars was presumed to include a majority of American consumers; businesses, worried about their image, tended to defer to them.

Now, Honey Maid, that old-fashioned brand of graham crackers, has launched an ad that shows, in the most radical and moving way of any national campaign so far, how much that has changed. It shows a two-dad family, a rocker family, a single dad, an interracial family, a military family. The two-dad household is featured at some length; you cannot be distracted away from it. Most striking is the tagline of the ad: “No matter how things change, what makes us wholesome never will. Honey Maid. Everyday wholesome snacks for every wholesome family. This is wholesome.” The ad is deeply heartwarming—not simply because it shows diversity (which other companies have done) but because it labels these families with the word “wholesome,” which is exactly the kind of word that tends to get claimed by the evangelical right. People have long suggested that the new structures of the American family are “unwholesome” as a way of rationalizing intolerance. The idea of what is “against nature” has been central to messages of prejudice about both interracial relationships and homosexuality.

Honey Maid knew its ad would provoke controversy, and it did. So the company has made a follow-up spot that has been released on social media. “On March 10th, 2014, Honey Maid launched ‘This is wholesome,’ a commercial that celebrates all families,” the online short proclaims. “Some people didn’t agree with our message.” Viewers see close-ups of tweets and e-mails with remarks such as “Horrible, NOT ‘WHOLESOME,’” “DO NOT APPROVE!,” and “Disgusting!!” The title card says, “So we asked two artists to take the negative comments and turn them into something else.” We then see thirty-year-olds Linsey Burritt and Crystal Grover, who collaborate under the name INDO, taking a printout of each hateful comment and rolling it into a tube, then grouping the tubes at one end of a vast, industrial-looking space to create an assemblage that spells out “Love.” The artists appear to walk away, their work done. Then the online ad proclaims, “But the best part was all the positive messages we received. Over ten times as many.” Then we see e-mails with epithets such as “family is family” and “love the Honey Maid ad” and “this story of a beautiful family” and “most beautiful thing.” The entire room fills up with tubes made from these messages. Finally, we are told, “Proving that only one thing really matters when it comes to family … ,” and then we see the word “love” embraced by a roomful of paper tubes. The pacing of the spot is impeccable: the first half turns hatred into love, and the second half provides evidence of love itself. In its first day online, it garnered more than 1.5 million views.

[…]

Advertising both follows and leads to change. Marketers’ objective is to sell things, and they will seldom be brave enough to jeopardize their own interests, but their own interests appear to be changing. At some quiet moment when “Modern Family” was reaping good ratings, the mentality of corporate America began to change. Cheerios ran an ad last summer that showed an interracial family and received an astonishing amount of vitriol—nearly fifty years after Loving v. Virginia. Some of the responses to its posting on General Mills”s YouTube channel were so odious that General Mills actually disabled the comments. When General Mills did a second ad in the series featuring the same family, it hired screeners to sort through the YouTube comments and remove the most bilious. It debuted during the Super Bowl, in February.

[…]

But how crushing that in the same week that Honey Maid has made history, we have the passage, in Mississippi, of S.B. 2681, signed into law Thursday, which takes the same tack as the vetoed Arizona bill but in very careful terms, allowing those with religious rationales to act out their bigotry, and enjoining government from interfering when they do so. I suppose that Mississippi, which doesn’t have an N.F.L. team, didn’t worry about not getting the Super Bowl. The anti-L.G.B.T. Family Research Council has taken credit for the passage of the bill, writing that its efforts

helped to bring along the business community—which, in Arizona, was so deceived by the media and outside leftist groups.… Mississippi companies didn’t have that problem, because the state tuned out the propaganda.

Where Mississippi has gone, other states will likely follow. With no federal jobs or housing protections, with no ENDA, gay people are vulnerable to such oppression. Being good for business gets us only so far. What, then, of Honey Maid? What, then, of making the word love out of all that hatred? It will take more than a pair of talented installation artists to bring about such a transformation on a national scale.

Doonesbury — What an idea.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Faking Out the Fakers

If Tucker Carlson, the poor man’s George F. Will, can run a fake website full of fake and exaggerated right-wing drivel, it stands to reason that it would get punked on by a fake news story from a satirical magazine article from 1990.

Dave Weigel at Slate:

If 2013 was the year of “the Internet falling for bogus stories,” 2014 is starting off with green shoots of hope. Some background:

Two and a half long months ago, reporter Charles C. Johnson teamed up with Joel Gilbert—a birther director who previously claimed that Barack Obama was sired by a communist poet—and talked to a few Newark residents who hated Cory Booker. The resulting Daily Caller story, titled “Neighbors: Cory Booker Never Lived in Newark,” was buzzy enough to generate questions for the New Jersey U.S. Senate candidate in his final press avails before he won the special election. Steve Lonegan, Booker’s opponent, even held a press conference to draw attention to the claims. It didn’t take much for BuzzFeed‘s Ruby Cramer to prove that the article was wrong, or to later prove that Johnson had previously (and without declaring it in his journalism) done research for an anti-Booker PAC.

Would that mean “fewer Charles Johnson articles in the Daily Caller“? No, of course not. Three days into the new year, Johnson appeared again in the Daily Caller with an apparent scoop about David D. Kirkpatrick, the New York Times Cairo bureau chief who’d just filed a lengthy corrective history of the 9/11/12 Benghazi attacks. Never mind Kirkpatrick’s reporting; Johnson proved that Kirkpatrick had “show[ed] his naked body to all” while a student at Princeton 25 years ago.

The source of the scoop was a parody edition of the Princeton University newspaper that also ran articles on the then-dead Elvis crooning for students cramming for finals and a professor who claimed to be able to brainwash his students at will.

Mr. Johnson has admitted to not understanding sarcasm and has apologized to Mr. Kirkpatrick.  But the best part is his defense of his journalistic integrity:

As an aside some people are arguing that I was trying to discredit Kirkpatrick’s controversial reporting on the Benghazi attack which is false. I simply wrote up the story because his name was in the news. I have no idea if what he reported was accurate.

QED.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013

Short Takes

Larry Summers backs out of the Fed chair race.

It’s still raining in Colorado, slowing rescue efforts.

U.N. inspectors submit report on Syria’s chemical weapons.

G.O.P. expresses guarded support for President Obama’s leadership on Syria.

The New Yorker gets a nip and tuck.

Tropical Update:  Hurricane Ingrid is a Cat 2, heading for the Gulf coast of Mexico.

The Tigers beat K.C. 3-2.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Journalism Is Not Terrorism

Rachel Maddow made this point last night:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

And this is David Atkins over at Hullabaloo:

If there’s one overarching theme to the post-Patriot Act civil libertarian argument, it’s that in the pants-wetting national reaction to the 9/11 attacks, the insane amount of authority the government has been given to secretly surveil and interfere with the lives of citizens is being used for far less defensible or frankly indefensible purposes. The potential for abuse of unlimited surveillance power is radically high, and the danger of a totalitarian society is quite strong when just about any abuse of power the government conducts is justified by “terrorism.”

I’ve had my issues with Greenwald. But I don’t care if you believe that Greenwald and Snowden are the embodiments of the Anti-Christ. I don’t care what documents Greenwald’s spouse was carrying, how classified they were, or whether you believe that Greenwald is a journalist. I don’t care.

When a government detains someone who is very clearly not a terrorist for nine hours without access to an attorney under a terrorism statute, that government has proven every point Greenwald wanted to make. The argument is over right there.

And every “progressive” with a beef against Greenwald who attempts to defend the UK’s actions does nothing more than prove Greenwald’s point. Governments that detain civil libertarian bloggers and journalists as terrorists deserve every heaping of scorn they get, as do those who defend them.

It’s not about the players, it’s about the rights and wrongs.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Jeff Bezos Goes Postal

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos wraps up a deal to buy the Washington Post.

Bezos, whose entrepreneurship has made him one of the world’s richest men, will pay $250 million in cash for The Post and affiliated publications to The Washington Post Co., which owns the newspaper and other businesses.

Seattle-based Amazon will have no role in the purchase; Bezos himself will buy the news organization and become its sole owner when the sale is completed, probably within 60 days. The Post Co. will get a new, still-undecided name and continue as a publicly traded company without The Post.

The deal represents a sudden and stunning turn of events for The Post, Washington’s leading newspaper for decades and a powerful force in shaping the nation’s politics and policy. Few people were aware that a sale was in the works for the paper, an institution that has covered local communities and presidents and gained worldwide attention for its stories about Watergate scandals and, in June, disclosures about National Security Agency surveillance programs.

Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald Graham and his niece, Post publisher Katharine Weymouth, broke the news of the sale to a packed meeting of employees at the company’s headquarters in downtown Washington on Monday. The mood was hushed; several veteran employees cried as Graham and Weymouth took turns reading statements and answering questions. “Everyone who was in that room knows how much Don and Katharine love the paper and how hard this must have been for them,” said David Ignatius, a veteran Post columnist who was visibly moved after the meeting.

But for much of the past decade, the paper has been unable to escape the financial turmoil that has engulfed newspapers and other “legacy” media organizations. The rise of the Internet and the epochal change from print to digital technology have created a massive wave of competition for traditional news companies, scattering readers and advertisers across a radically altered news and information landscape and triggering mergers, bankruptcies and consolidation among the owners of print and broadcasting properties.

“Every member of my family started out with the same emotion — shock — in even thinking about” selling The Post, Graham said in an interview Monday. “But when the idea of a transaction with Jeff Bezos came up, it altered my feelings.”

Mr. Bezos grew up in Miami.  So why didn’t he buy the Miami Herald?  Because he didn’t get to be that rich by being stupid, that’s why.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Vindication

Sometimes the wheels of justice grind slowly and they can be aggravating, but every once in a while, things work out for the best.

This week saw full vindication for attorneys Michael Tein and Guy Lewis as the Florida Bar closed out the complaints with a no probable cause finding and began an investigation into the attorneys for the Miccosukee tribe. The comparison in criminal court is like getting a not guilty and then having the cops arrested for lying. It was a truly remarkable feat of lawyering and one worthy of praise.

So there you have it. A few lessons learned, two lawyers have their reputations restored, and one damn fine job of lawyering. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Full disclosure: Mr. Lewis is my attorney and a good friend.  That doesn’t mean I can’t say that I think he and his partner got screwed royally by some members of the legal community and the press (*cough The Miami Herald cough*).

I never doubted for a minute that he and Michael would be exonerated, but it’s nice to see at least some people acknowledge their vindication.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Short Takes

Secretary of State Kerry gets Israel and Palestine to agree to start talking about peace talks.

Michigan court puts wrinkle in Detroit bankruptcy.

Court orders New York Times reporter to testify about source of classified information.

Asiana flight victim killed by rescue vehicle, not by crash.

Rough waters at a boat ride at Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio.

The Tigers begin the second half of the season by losing to K.C. 1-0.